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Congress holds hearing on challenges for rural small businesses

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Eric Tegethoff

(Washington News Service) Rural small business owners are testifying before Congress Wednesday about the unique challenges they face. 

Josh Phillips, owner of Spawn Fly Fish in Ilwaco, Washington, is prepared to tell lawmakers about one of the biggest obstacles he faces ... the lack of infrastructure and housing in rural communities. 

Phillips said his business is converting a garage into housing, hoping to use available housing as a perk to potential employees.

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"The ability to attract somebody that has the level of expertise for what we do on the internet is challenging without our ability to house them, which historically doesn't fall on the owner to house employees, but kind of does in these rural communities," he explained. "And it's not something that's unique to us."

The House Committee on Small Business is holding the hearing, called "Rural Entrepreneurship: Examining the Challenges and State of Rural Small Businesses." It will live streamed on YouTube.

Phillips said there are other ways the federal government could help small businesses, such as making lines of credit and loans through the Small Business Administration more accessible.

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"It's not that they aren't trying to do the right thing, but our ability to circumnavigate the red tape as an owner-operated business has been challenging for us in the past," Phillips continued. 

Phillips also intends to discuss the affect artificial intelligence is having on rural communities.

"When you bring up the thought of AI, it turns into a morality question - and my worry is that small rural businesses are going to get left behind if they don't become at least a little bit aware of the tools, and how the tools can be utilized," he said.